HERA-CARIB: Transforming Archaeology into a Vibrant Legacy

HERA-CARIB: Transforming Archaeology into a Vibrant Legacy


By Prof Corinne Hofman & Dr Jimmy Mans


In our HERA-CARIB project we examined the transformations of the indigenous-Caribbean communities of the Lesser Antilles from AD 1000 until AD 1800, and re-approached and determined the impact of the first European settlement in this part of the New World. The multi-disciplinary research focus combined archaeology (Hofman, Hoogland, Mans, de Ruiter), archaeometry (Degryse, Neyt, Scott) and network science (Brandes, Brughmans, van Garderen). Besides their specific empirical data sets and research angles, another crucial part of this HERA-CARIB project was to contribute to heritage awareness, engaging multiple stakeholders at local and global scales.

Before the start of the HERA-CARIB project archaeologists Hofman (CPI) and Hoogland (senior researcher) started an excavation at Argyle, Saint Vincent, in 2009-2010. The direct incentive to conduct large scale excavations was a request by the National Trust of Saint Vincent and the Grenadines, through Kathy Martin, to rescue Amerindian sites in an area that was to be greatly impacted by the construction of a new international airport.  

The archaeological site appeared to comprise a relatively short early colonial occupation dating to the 16th-early 17th century of which the footprints were well conserved and distinguishable. Members of both Kalinago and Garifuna indigenous communities visited the on-going excavations several times. Based on the archaeological remains combined with early French historical sources, it was possible to interpret and connect the traces to indigenous house types and even to an entire village layout.

As part of the HERA-CARIB project, we revisited the island of Saint Vincent to participate in the Garifuna conference in March 2015. There, we presented the results of the Argyle excavations and through mediation and help of the Garifuna conference organizers (Zoila Ellis, David Williams & Vanessa Demirciyan) we received the green light to create a permanent exhibition in the new public library in Kingstown, the capital of Saint Vincent.  The centre piece of this exhibition is a large-scale model of the Argyle village, produced by Eric Pelissier. Posters produced by Jimmy Mans (postdoc) adorn the walls of the library and explain the context of the excavations.         

During the 2015 visit to the island, meetings were scheduled with different stakeholders including the International Airport Construction Development Company LTD (IACD), the Ministries of culture, tourism and agriculture, and the Saint Vincent and the Grenadines National Trust. At that point the idea was born to create an archaeological park on top of the archaeological site itself where both St. Vincentians and tourists from abroad could come to learn about the indigenous past of the island.

With support from the IACD, the ministries and the HERA-CARIB project, a team was created comprising of experimental archaeology experts (Diederik Pomstra & Leo Wolterbeek) and assisted by members of local Vincentian communities to create a first trail-and-error house which was ceremonially opened in February 2016 (see movie link). The Vincentian team (headed by Erasto Robinson) continued work and managed to reconstruct the Argyle village in June 2016. The village is meant to feature as a symbolic national heritage icon and an empowerment for the Garifuna and Kalinago communities of the island.

Two members of these communities (Augustin Sutherland & John Nero) were invited to come to Leiden to participate in the HERA-CARIB closing conference entitled Caribbean Connections: Indigenous-Caribbean legacies and identities, organized by Jimmy Mans and Corinne Hofman. They were joined by two members of the Kalinago community of the island of Dominica (Irvince Auguiste & Cozier Frederick) who had worked with Mans and Samantha de Ruiter (PhD) in the context of the HERA-CARIB project in 2014 and 2015, and joined by members of the Indigenous-Surinamese communities and their diaspora in the Netherlands (a.o. Josee Artist & Denise Menke). The objective of the conference was to discuss the results of the HERA-CARIB project with different indigenous stakeholders. It was also a network event to share legacies and foster future collaborations. A second meeting is already planned by the Kalinago of Dominica and will take place on August 9-10, 2017.  


Fig 1. Reconstructing the indigenous early-colonial village of Argyle

(Photograph: Ministry of Tourism, Sports and Culture, Saint Vincent 2016)


Fig 2. Reconstructing a house at the archaeological site of Argyle (Photograph: Jimmy Mans 2016)


Fig 3. Argyle scale model and exhibition in the new Public Library of Kingstown, Saint Vincent (Photograph: Jimmy Mans 2015).


Fig 4. Excavation at the archaeological site of Argyle (Photograph: Menno Hoogland, 2010)